BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – Morning temperatures are climbing in this highly-urbanized provincial capital of Negros Oriental where transport strikes used to ground public transport to a halt but the recent surprise tigil pasada of a previously unknown group fizzled as old jeepney officials squabbled and accused each other of ulterior motives. (READ also: Welga Kontra Dupa: Surprise action of splinter transport group hits Bacolod but paralysis barely felt as leaders of major feds seek Divine help)
Albert Villanueva, secretary general of the Sentrong Samahan ng Tsuper at Operators sa Negros (SSTON) said only the “new group” joined the strike they called for, paralyzing a negligible two percent of old jeepney units out of the more than 2,000 plying roads here
Villaueva’s assessment was almost the same with that of Traffic Authority Office chief Junji Liba, a police major, who estimated the paralysis at also two percent noontime of 6 March 2023.
The strike came on a Monday as the sugar industry’s milling season draws to an end and the tiempo muerto or the work slowdown begins in the sugarcane fields along with the sweltering heat that can usually be felt towards the summer.
The new group was previously unknown and was led by an also unknown jeep operator, Rudy Catedral, who blasted leaders of three major transport federations who chose to pray than join them at three major chokepoints here.
Aside from SSTON’s Villanueva, Elizabeth Katalbas and Diego Malacad also joined the prayer rally at the San Sebastian Cathedral, the main Roman Catholic church here as Catedral was losing his voice lambasting government in one of the strike centers for its transport modernization program.
Katalbas, longtime president of the conservative Federation of Bacolod City Drivers Associations was surprisingly joined by Malacad who heads the local affiliate of the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operators Nationwide, the activist organization that had rabidly opposed the plan of the Duterte government to phase out old jeeps.
The “new” organization announced itself as the the Bacolod Alliance for Commuters, Operators and Drivers (BACOD), a play on the word “bakod” or strong in Hiligaynon and was joined by those from the Kilusang Mayo Uno and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan who bore placards with slogans announcing such.
Jeffrey Celiz alias Ka Eric Almendras, a former Communist cadre who is one of the leading figures in the government’s Anti-Communist campaign, had repeatedly claimed that Bayan and KMU are legal fronts of designated terror groups, the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army.
These groups have also repeatedly denied such claims.
Catedral, speaking at a rally center, shouted that some transport leaders are misleadung its members and said there is no need to pray to Mayor Albee Benitez who jad done nothing to help them.
Junjun Asis, however, in a separate interview, told DNX that the new alliance is only intended to propel its leaders to popularity because they plan to run in the coming October village polls.
While she was not named, BACOD secretary general Lilian Sembrano, who broke off from SSTON, said her plans to run have nothing to do with their demands.